Two-time Grammy winner Corinne Bailey Rae returns later this week with her brand new album, and we got the opportunity to catch up with the British singer/songwriter to find out all about the record, touring, working with husband Steve Brown and more.
You've had a bit of a break from the spotlight, so how much have you changed or evolved as an artist in that time?
I think I've changed quite a lot. I think this record really is about freedom and transformation. I really wanted it to be fun and vibrant and full of life, reflective of transformation and where I guess I've been in the last few years - moving from bitterness to sweetness, from darkness to light. I feel like it covers those things.
Have you noticed any major changes in the industry?
I haven't so far. I guess I'm really engaged with what's happening in music, so I think there's a lot of women making music and being producers and being artists, that's a really positive thing. There's definitely more and more women and girls being involved in the music scene and defining what's happening, and that's a really great thing.
Do you think attitudes towards women in the industry have changed a lot then?
I think attitudes towards women are constantly changing and I think they're just, hopefully we're moving in the right direction in terms of believing what women are capable of. The fact that there is so much space for content that's being made by women, whether it's film or literature or TV, whatever, there's more and more stuff for girls and by girls. I guess that's been reflected in music as well.
Do you think there's a pressure on women to maintain a certain image?
I don't really feel that, but I guess I came at it from a slightly different background, coming from indie and then, just starting out - that first album was more pop but quite sort of whimsical - so the songs weren't sexy club songs or whatever, so I guess there wasn't that feeling that I would have to be the sexy club person to back up the songs.
I feel now that a lot of women enjoy expressing that side of themselves, you see a lot of that, but I personally have never felt any of that pressure.
Your new album is out mid-May - what should we expect from your sound and direction with this record?
I'd say this record is really, really diverse. There are some really intimate ballads on the record, but there's also lots of vibrant, colourful kind of, noisy sounds. I think it's experimental. There's a lot of positive music encouraging people.
There's a song called 'The Skies Will Break' which is the first song on the record and that's really about how the dark times will go away and the sun will break through, the waves will part, it's really elemental in describing transformations that can happen in your life.
The record's really hopeful. It's got a lot of singing on it, a lot of backing vocals and layers - I feel like I'm using my voice as an instrument as well. There's some really playful songs and some kind of cosmic, quite trippy, soulful songs as well, so it's quite diverse.
Can you tell us a little bit about what a typical day in the studio looks like?
I write the songs and then I work together with a really good producer, Steve Brown who I worked with on my last record. I've also met this great female producer called Paris Strother who's in this really great band called KING, she does all their production, it's dreamy and electronic...
So this record I guess I was learning really to be a producer and experimenting with what would sound good on the record, what the beat should be like and what the textures should be like.
I made my own studio for this project, that's been really good, setting up a space where I thought, 'I don't want anyone to be looking at the clock', I don't wanna be thinking 'I can't work on this day because the engineer's not gonna be available,' I just wanted to be in there and do whatever I wanted, so I set it up as a play space I guess and to me, it sounds like I'm really playing.
We'll go up after lunch, listen to what we've done the previous day or we might be just starting something from scratch, I'll often put down a performance of guitar and vocal and then we'll build on top of that, but sometimes we start with drums. We've got some old drum machines or consoles that were on organs, or some little Japanese things, we'll find something that's fun to start off with, like something that's maybe a more unusual sound and then just go from there.
It's just like cooking in a way. You've got the main ingredients, then it's, 'what can I add to this to make it tastier?' You're thinking of a sonic landscape, and if you've got load of stuff going on that's low and juicy, you might want really high spiky things to pop through, so I might put on a glockenspiel high up, or think about the bass and whether it needs to be subby, or whether it's a live bass... There's just a lot of questions to answer in the studio. Once you've got the song, it seems to be a thousand questions about different directions the song can go in.
You sang the theme tune for Stan Lee's Lucky Man TV series on Sky 1 and it had a great response. Will that be released?
The Lucky Man theme tune is not on the album. We'll probably put it out at some point. I imagine Lucky Man will get a second series, maybe around then we can put it out. The whole song I wrote for it and then obviously, the theme tune is just the short bit of the chorus.
They told me about the show on the phone and I was really excited about it, I really love comic book fiction and Stan Lee's idea of luck - what if you were to have great fortune and what would be the downsides or the fallout from that? You'd have bad luck on the other side. I really like James Nesbitt - my sister used to be in a TV show with him called Cold Feet. I really like Amara Karan as well, who was in The Darjeeling Limited, one of my favourite Wes Anderson films, so I was like, 'yeah I'll do it!'
They described it over the phone then one time when I was driving I just kinda started singing the theme tune, quickly recorded it on my phone and I just really liked it. I liked the idea of having it quite bare and all the music rushing in for the chorus.
You've got live shows scheduled for this year - what should fans expect from those?
I love playing live. When you're all together in that room, you'll never be together again, it's a total one off, and live I've always liked to have it really raw, have it be a massive connection with the audience.
I just did a London show where I found myself just jumping up and down at the end of one song for ages, dancing. I never really dance on stage so, I feel like I don't really know what to expect. What to expect from me just will be us and the band including me just showing freedom, being free and having it come through. I don't use loads of backing track and that sort of thing. We're not gonna be just pressing play, it won't sound exactly like the record, it's a live version where anything could happen. The audience really shapes it depending how much they get into any particular song.
You work as you mentioned with your husband Steve on your album, what advice do you have for other couples who work together?
We've worked together a long time, we worked together before we were in a relationship, but I think the main thing is to keep the communication open. For us we're travelling all over the world, a lot of time we're away from home, especially in New York and Los Angeles, even just being in London from Leeds. It's great to travel together, it's fun so I think, just make the most of it. You're really lucky to share new memories with each other and not just call home. It's really good to be able to experience it together, so that's the part I'm looking forward to the most.
Is it hard to balance your working and personal lives?
We don't have a really good balance because we're both really obsessive, we both work really hard. Most of what we've been doing the last few years is the record. In a way I think this phase of touring will be the most balanced compared to being in the studio all the time. When touring the most you're on stage is two hours, the rest of the day is trying to find a place to have lunch in Brazil or whatever, so it's really good fun.
Do you enjoy the touring life?
I do actually. I didn't really travel a lot growing up, I couldn't really afford it. I didn't get on a plane until I was 19 so travelling is still a massive novelty for me. Going to new places, meeting people, being shown around a city, finding great places to eat and museums to go into, being in front of an audience you can see the cultural differences. I love the touring side of it.
Corinne Bailey Rae's new album 'The Heart Speaks In Whispers' is officially released on Friday, May 13.
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